Sports

To Brazil, with soccer

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

In Brazil, soccer is king.

Children in the South American country are pretty much born with a soccer ball on their foot. Brazilians eat, sleep and breathe the sport.

This passion is reflected in the fact the Brazilian soccer team is the only country to win the World Cup four times in 1958, ‘62, ‘70 and ‘94. They also have the world’s largest stadium, The Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, which seats 200,000 people.

But not all the soccer-loving kids in the economically-strapped country are lucky enough to play in front of 200,000 crazed fans. Most kids in Brazil can’t even afford the essential equipment needed to play soccer. Things like shoes, jerseys and balls.

That’s where 11-year-old Mari Hamashima steps in.

The seventh-grader-to-be at Federal Way Public Academy has started collecting used soccer gear to donate to the children of Brazil. Hamashima will take any equipment associated with the most popular sport in the world. The family’s cluttered West Campus-area garage can attest to that.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Hamashima, who happens to be an avid soccer fan and plays with the Pheonix, an under-12 team in Federal Way. “I’ve never really done anything to help kids outside of Washington.”

Hamashima started the project of collecting soccer gear last December to satisfy a requirement at Federal Way Public Academy.

As a student at the school, she must complete a community service project as part of the curriculum. School officials describe the project as something that will improve the quality of life for community residents, particularly low-income individuals, or to solve particular problems related to their needs.

“This sounded like a good idea,” Hamashima said. “So I started passing out fliers and encouraged people to donate stuff.”

So far, Hamashima and her family have collected about 400 jerseys and several shoes and shinguards. That number is expected to go up this weekend. The Federal Way United Soccer Club is currently hosting its annual Blast Off Tournament at several fields around the city. The tournament will draw over 140 boys and girls soccer teams from across the Pacific Northwest over the next two weekends. And, thanks to Federal Way United, all 140 coaches received a flier regarding Hamashima’s project. There will be a large donation box at Blast Off’s tournament offices at Celebration Park during both weekends.

“There will be a lot of people there,” said Heather Hamashima, Mari’s mom. “Hopefully, we will get a lot of stuff.”

The Hamashima family can’t take credit for coming up with the idea of sending soccer equipment to Brazil. Corey Zimmer, a coach in the Federal Way Mod Soccer Association, mentioned to Mari that his father, Charles, often goes down to Brazil as a missionary from Kent’s Riverview Community Church. Charles Zimmer often visits an orphanage in the rural northeast city of Caruaru and offered to take down the donated soccer items to the children.

So far, Zimmer has hauled one of Hamashima’s loads down to South America.

“The children were delighted and quickly found their way to our soccer field for a game,” wrote Caruaru Mayor Antonio Geraldo Rodrigues da Silva in a letter to Hamashima.

“I don’t know how he gets all the stuff there,” said Heather Hamashima about Zimmer. “I guess he packs it in his luggage or something. But he says the kids get very excited when he brings them the stuff. The last time they spent the whole day wearing it.”

Mari hopes to see the kids of Brazil wearing the soccer equipment she collected by one day traveling down to Caruaru.

“I think that would be really nice to meet the kids I’ve helped,” Mari said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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